Resource Details

Forest plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua: Performance of species and preferences of farmers

Literature: Journal Articles

Piotto, D., Montagnini, F., Kanninen, M., Ugalde, L., & Viquez, E. 2004, "Forest plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua: Performance of species and preferences of farmers", Journal of Sustainable Forestry, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 59-77.

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • Geotec Consultoria, Rua Estado de Israel 30, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil, CEP 04022-0000
  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor Barat 16680, Indonesia
  • Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 370 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511 USA
  • Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, (CATIE) 7170 Turrialba, Costa Rica


Species Info

  • Dipteryx panamensis
  • Calophyllum brasiliense
  • Hieronyma alchorneoides
  • Virola koschnyi
  • Cordia alliodora
  • Terminalia amazonia
  • Vochysia guatemalensis
  • Vochysia ferruginea
  • Stryphnodendron microstachyum
  • Tectona grandis (exotic)
  • Gmelina arborea (exotic)
  • Azadirachta indica
  • Bombacopsis quinata
  • Caesalpinia eriostachys
  • Cedrela odorata
  • Gliricidia sepium
  • Leucaena leucocephala
  • Swietenia macrophylla
  • Samanea saman
  • Tabebuia rosea
  • Eucalyptus spp.


  • This paper presents data on survival and growth of mixed native and exotic forest plantations established on abandoned pastures in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The article also includes information on farmer species preference and socioeconomic information.
  • In Costa Rica, 123 smallholders in Heredia, an area with humid climate, established plantations between 1990 and 1995. A total of 17 different species was planted in pure blocks, with the different pure blocks forming a mixed species mosaic.
  • In Nicaragua, 202 smallholders in Rio Grande of Carazo, an area with dry climate, established plantations between 1997 and 1998. A total of 22 different species was planted in mixed and pure blocks, with some species serving as timber and some as fuelwood source.
  • From each group, 35% of the participating farmers were selected for interviews and measurements taken in their plantations.
  • Silvicultural measurements include DBH and total height. Bole form and health of the trees was visually estimated. Site factors (slope, aspect, spacing) were recorded.
  • In Costa Rica, most of the species used showed good potential for rapid growth and good bole form. Hieronyma alchorneoides and Tectona grandis were the only species with poor bole form.
  • In Nicaragua, the species that experienced the most problems was Bombacopsis quinata. The most productive species were Tectona grandis and Swietenia macrophylla, in mixed plots, Pachira guachapele, Caesalpinia eriostachys, Samanea saman and Cedrela odorata showed good growth rates. Some species (C. odorata and S. macrophylla) showed a high percentage of bifurcated trees which the authors attribute to insect attack and poor silvicultural management.
  • The article summarizes characteristics of the farmers in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In both countries, most farmers prefer planting native species. In Costa Rica, frequent contact with extensionists has led many farmers to apply silvicultural treatments (e.g. pruning). in Nicaragua, management is limited to replanting and cleaning.
  • The majority of farmers in both countries was willing to continue reforesting, if government or non-government institutions provided continued economic incentives, since farmers do not have the resources to establish plantations. Another challenge is bridging the lack of income until financial benefits are obtained from the plantation.
  • Overall, the plantations in Costa Rica performed much better in growth, form, disease resistance, and productivity than the plantations in Nicaragua. The authors suggest that this is due in part to the climatic differences, and in part to many years of reserach on native species productivity in Costa Rica, which formed the basis for species selection at these sites. Adequate species-site matching is highlighted as a key factor leading to plantation success or failure.
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